Saturday, February 3, 2007

Weekend Food: Bolognese. . .er, Sugo. . .er, Tomato and Meat Sauce

If you're not interested in cooking or food, you should skip this post.

I'm a total junkie when it comes to cooking and food. That doesn't mean I'm any good at the former, though I'm pretty decent at the latter. In particular, I'm a huge fan of Italian food -- this despite the fact that I've never been to Italy.

But over the past ten years, as my interest in cooking grew, I cooked more, acquired more hardware in the form of pots and pans and useless gadgets, more software in the form of innumerable bookmarks and cookbooks, and several more burns and cuts than is normal for any human being except one.

And I've developed a peculiar (for me) left-brain way of doing things.

After reading and viewing and researching a recipe, I make what seems to me an agreed-upon "classic" version. I write this up in a Word document and deem it 1.0. And I take serious notes after that, create a new, 2.0 version, and try that. And the note-taking and testing repeats.

Yes. It's weird. I understand that. It's only been exacerbated by working at Jangl.

So I'm well-aware that the "bolognese sauce" I'm making tonight is inauthentic. A "real" bolognese features very little tomato -- in fact, in final form, it usually appears less as a "sauce" and more like a finely-chopped or ground meat bound together by a flavorful glaze, with only the smallest blush of tomato-red. It also generally shuns garlic and includes pancetta.

But there a million variations. Some might be deemed authentic, and others not. Probably only the Bolognese know best. And I haven't met them yet.

Me? I'm on variation 6.0 (below), preparing for tomorrow's Super Bowl. I like tomatoes and garlic, so they're plentiful here. This is an amalgam of Marcella Hazan, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Mario Batali (gasp), and folks like Elise at SimplyRecipes and Cook's Illustrated (sub required for the recipe).

Yes, it takes a long time, and it kills. The veal adds everything and, yes, I feel guilty. Best over al dente campanelle, because those little chewy tubas collect and hold the sauce perfectly. I like it with a grating of pecorino romano, but taste it first to see if it's for you -- it's pretty heady stuff.

The pot pictured above is my weapon of choice -- a 12 quart, stainless steel, thick-bottomed target. You could get away with a 7-quart pot. I just like a lot of room.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup butter
2 yellow onions, minced
3 carrots, coarsely grated
3 stalks celery, minced
1 1/2 tbl. fresh thyme leaves, minced
20 ounces ground sirloin
14 ounces ground pork
14 ounces ground veal
1 cup 2 percent milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano crushed tomatoes, not drained
1 2/3 cups Sangiovese
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf, torn
parmigiano reggiano rind (optional)
white sugar
kosher salt
beef broth
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped

Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy pot to medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and thyme, and cook for about 15 minutes. Boost the heat to medium-high, add the meat in chunks and break up/stir occasionally, cooking until grey. Lower the heat to medium, add the milk and cream and simmer, stirring fairly frequently, for about 30 minutes.

Add the salt, pepper, tomatoes, wine, garlic, bay leaf and parm rind (optional). Bring to a gentle boil, and then reduce heat to simmer or low and cook uncovered about 5 hours. Stir about every half hour.

At about the two hour mark, use a ladle to carefully skim off fat and discard it.

At the 5 hour mark, add the sugar and salt to taste. If too thin, boost heat, stirring frequently, until at desired consistency. If too thick, add beef broth in small amounts, cooking until at desired thickeness. Just before finishing, add parsley, stir well, and serve or store.

Your basic soffrito -- onions, celery and carrots (grated) -- with thyme. When the oil and butter are nice and hot, add this.
Simmer those babies for about 15 minutes over medium heat.

After you've browned the meat, add the milk and cream. Once it mostly evaporates, it should look like this.

No comments: